Five ways technology can power enhanced government services
Latest-generation enterprise technologies have the potential to improve financial and operational management within public sector entities, and enhance service delivery to citizens.
Here are five of the most important applications of technology in government:
1. Transforming, simplifying and building responsive systems
The first step on the journey to true e-Government services is to replace all of the legacy infrastructure that’s unable to keep up with new technology and new demands. By simplifying and standardising on certain technology sets, government is able to create operational efficiencies and fulfil its various mandates more easily.
We’re seeing the first positive signs that the long-awaited Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) will soon become a reality – as Treasury has recently concluded an agreement with Oracle, to centralise financial management systems across national, provincial and local structures.
Cloud computing is heralded as a key enabler of e-Government transformation. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the cloud is very relevant to state organisations looking to rapidly scale services and deliver them to millions. Government's’ cloud concerns lie in the area of data sovereignty – meaning that it’s essential for cloud services to be hosted locally.
2. Digitising processes
Our government is under huge strain in a number of areas. And while technology cannot solve every problem, it can assist in speeding up processes for many government services. Take the example of title deeds in South African townships for example. Many residents and homeowners have to wait months or years to apply for official title deeds. In this time, they’re unable to raise financing against this asset.
In a country where access to finance is a clear barrier to economic advancement, finding ways to process millions of title deed requests is a primary concern for government. By using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and fully-digitising the process, technology is able to shoulder much of the administrative burden, and speed up processing cycle.
In fact, there are numerous examples where geolocation technology like GIS, combined with intelligent digital processes, can assist with local administration – most notably in areas such as improving the collection of municipal rates and enforcing municipal by-laws, for instance.
3. Developing skills
Much has been written about the dearth of key skills in the public sector. But with the right technology we can go a long way in addressing the labour shortage, improving efficiencies and stimulating economic growth.
By moving towards cloud-based architectures, government is able to reduce the need for certain specialist skills (for those ‘scarce skills’ where competing in the open market with more attractive private sector employers is an impossible task).
Secondly, new online and mobile learning tools give government employees access to a far greater breadth of learning materials. And thirdly, technology-enabled partnerships with schools, technikons and universities can further improve public servants’ access to skills development.
4. Advanced analytics
One of our country’s biggest challenges is the relatively small pool of taxpayers in comparison to the vast range of infrastructure and services that government must provide, maintain, and enhance.
To create much-needed efficiencies, and get the most from every tax-dollar, we can turn to advanced analytics. For example, sensor-enabled predictive maintenance helps to pre-empt faults on electricity lines or water pipes, speeding up the time to resolution and decreasing the costs of maintenance.
As we remain firmly in the grip of one of the most devastating droughts in recent history, the issue of more efficiently managing our scarce resources is brought to the fore. Advanced analytics would enable us to make better use of these resources, and improve government ability to embark on new infrastructure developments.
5. Enterprise development
By selecting technology partners who have a strong focus on enterprise development, Government’s ICT investments can be leveraged to have a far broader impact on economic growth.
Large IT specialists should be developing innovation hubs, skills development programmes, and involving them in private-sector contracts. When all of these pieces fall into place, the country receives maximum value from government’s technology partnerships.
Taking this one step further, we believe that the role of ICT service providers goes far beyond simply licensing and integrating technology. True partnerships involve walking hand-in-hand with government, alleviating the burden and stress of managing complex systems, and focusing on the deployment of citizen-centric solutions. Ultimately, this allows municipalities and government bodies to focus on their core mandates of service delivery and economic development.
John Mokiti is the Business Development Manager of Government and Public Services at Wipro Limited. Gavin Holme is the Country Manager, for Africa at Wipro. Wipro is a global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company with 170,000+ workforce serving clients in 175+ cities across 6 continents.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”